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Co-ed, multi-ed, no-ed

By Paul Walfield
web posted June 2, 2003

Co-ed for the majority of people who ever paid attention to such things used to mean, males and females both participated. If it wasn't co-ed, it was either a male or female institution, event or housing. Schools could be co-ed, and so could their dorms. Actually, co-ed dorms are a relatively new concept, and for fathers with daughters, not a very good one.

Nowadays, times being what they are, the term co-ed is being relegated to the dustbin of archaic terms, joining "swell," "neat," "groovy," "normal," "decency" and "morality."

The folks over in Connecticut, specifically at Wesleyan University, have come to the conclusion that the term "co-ed" is too confining. According to the Hartford Courant newspaper, Wesleyans may see things a bit more openly than most folks, "We don't really use the word ‘coed' because ‘coed' implies one of two genders and a lot of people don't identify with either gender."

Wesleyan University in Connecticut: Land of confusion
Wesleyan University in Connecticut: Land of confusion

The Wesleyans, the article explains, have gotten to the bottom of the dilemma and come up with a solution, "Wesleyan University in Connecticut will in September inaugurate a 'gender-blind' dormitory for incoming students who aren't sure what sex they are." While it may be off the mark, you have to figure that by the time someone is college age, and they don't know what sex they are, which dorm they sleep in is probably the least of their problems.

The article explains the issue; '"Transgender' is an umbrella term… The term could apply to people born with ambiguous genitalia or to people who don't identify with their physical sex."

It has to be disheartening for most parents who find out that their child or children can't decide which gender they prefer or more to the point that they have a mind that tells them they have a choice in that matter, but to find out that instead of trying to straighten those people out, the experts, at least at one of America's universities, came to the conclusion that they should indulge the incoming students who are "confused."

The academics at Wesleyan had a problem. A new freshman came to the university who had been born with all the parts that said female, but liked to live, at least for the moment, as a male. The dorms at the university had a strict policy of placing males with males and females with females. In the case of the new fresh"man," putting a female in the same room would have ordinarily been the way to go, but knowing the "preference du jour" of the new inductee, not such a good idea. They needed a solution that would satisfy everyone, which meant not offending the gender challenged set. The intellectuals at one of America's most highly regarded university's, decided that starting next term, "Transgender freshman will have the option of living in a ‘gender-blind' hall - one floor of a dormitory for students who don't want to be categorized as one gender or another." The article continued, "The hall will be on the first floor of one of the Foss Hill residence complex buildings. It will consist of two single rooms and five "doubles" - a single unit with two rooms. The bathrooms will be unisex."

The Wesleyan administrators were ecstatic, they solved the vexing problem of what to do with students whose judgment about which gender they decided upon was not determined, and they didn't even to have to bring in a new set of Porta-potty's to accommodate the "gender challenged," though, their use of the term "unisex" may have to be supplanted with the term, "multi-sex" or "unconvinced" on the bathroom door.

In effect, and not meaning to disparage a whole class of people you probably would put at the bottom of your list of folks you want your own children to use as exemplars, the university is in effect setting up red light districts in their dorms. Students, who up until arriving at the university and living in the dorm had a pretty good idea of who they were, may find solace in discovering their professors and school administrators not only don't make any judgments regarding people who buck what used to be considered normal, but accommodate them to the point of attempting to create a new standard. A standard which in effect, sets no standards as a rule.

Wesleyan University has even changed its mission statement to now allow any student who wants to live in a gender blind dorm "be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender." How special. Kids, our children who up until the time they went off to college couldn't be trusted to feed the goldfish, get to live in room in a dorm with who knows what, (they don't even know), as a roommate. It's not bad enough that the students are there on their parents' dime, but the faculty and administration that are also, and it would be interesting to hear what most parents think of the new "mission" set by the faculty. Though, Mike Whaley, dean of student services at Wesleyan University is quoted by the Hartford Courant as saying, "It's just another one of the different living options that we offer for first-year students."

It is tough being a parent, and instead of easier, it gets harder as your kids grow. There are new decisions that have to be made over and above simple feeding, bathing and safety. You wonder about your kids' friends and where they are and what they are doing. You hope you set a good example and let them know what is and what is not acceptable.

It can only make it tougher on your kids to find out that some of the ideas that they were instilled with are being contradicted by new authority figures in their lives. It is also absolutely disheartening for parents to find out that besides the usual academic curriculum taught at universities, you get the added treat of discovering that your children are also taught the principles of people that believe "principles" is an antiquated notion.

As the article makes clear, the rest of the planet is simply behind the times and the folks at the university don't see what the fuss is all about, or the need to be concerned about any kind of outcry by people in the community, "Wesleyan spokesman Justin Harmon said he doesn't expect that kind of fallout." Adding, "I think if people understand the issues and the needs of the folks we're trying to help, I don't think there's much to react to."

It really goes back to the old public service announcement, "It's 10pm, do you know where your kids are?" If your kids go to Wesleyan, you may not want to know.

Paul Walfield is a freelance writer and an attorney and counselor at law with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and post-graduate study in behavioral and analytical psychology. He resided for a number of years in the small town of Houlton, Maine and is now practicing law and writing about current events. Paul can be contacted at paul.walfield@cox.net ©2003 Paul Walfield. All Rights Reserved

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